I am not much of a chess player. That said one thing that has annoyed me to no end is GNU Chess 1.2. Over on bitsavers is this fun directory:
And despite being a treasure trove of ancient GNU software, I have never been able to get GNU Chess to do much of anything. At best it’ll give the Chess prompt, and then it’ll either crash (good!) or worst case it just exits silently with no reason given.
I have put only minimal effort into debugging it, and really got nowhere. I don’t know why this is such a tough beast to deal with, or why I even care. As I mentioned above, I’m not much of a chess player.
But for some reason this time around I thought I’d try the earliest release quality Visual C++ to build it. I wasn’t expecting much, however for some reason this ancient version seems to run.
I had to enable a few things such as the RANDOM & HASH to make it look like it wants to play. I ended up having to make some changes after a draw or victory as the ‘self playing mode’would keep going. Not sure what’s going on there, and I added a line at the end of the logic loop to always print the board, so at least you can see what is going on if you have it playing itself.
With that said this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen:
Given I don’t have any good rusage emulation going on (I know its in MinGW at some point, and I probably can find it, and get it running on MSVC but I don’t see that as important) an 8 move victory seems pretty… unlikely?
Maybe it’s a good test of other C compilers to see if they produce anything. Or maybe it’s all a red herring? I haven’t tested with much but GCC 1.40 can’t even run it on x86. Watcom 10 can build, but it crashes during a self game.
It’s one of those mysteries, that I’m sure there is some fundamental lesson, but I’m not sure what it is.
Other than it’s a long way down, standing on the shoulders of giants.
In my “C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\10\Emulation\Mobile\10.0.14393.0” directory I have a modest 2GB file called flash.vhd which contains the phone image. I copy it to where I run my VM’s and run it with the XDE emulator:
And I’m running in no time, I login, load some apps, then I notice the storage:
What?! the disk image is a paultry 10GB. I guess the idea is that you wouldn’t actually try to load up the emulator like it’s your daily driver, rather you load YOUR app and only YOUR app, and just pretend that this isn’t some weird offshoot nostalgia machine.
Well needless to say something needs to be done about this storage situation.
I look and find this package, vhdutils. I had to go to some sketchy site, but it did include source. I should put this somewhere more legit to take away from all those weird squatters.
So with stuff installed onto my phone I’m almost at 7GB physical 7.6 virtual space. I could go all crazy with 128 or 256GB but it’d largely be stuff I bought… which of course thanks to the magical world of DRM won’t play.
Yeah I guess you are welcome that I bought all those movies, and stuff but sure I wasn’t going to watch them on this phone… emulator. Thanks. thanks again.
So the resize vhd is quick. brutal. and efficient. I go with 64GB, because, why not? I could probably just grow it again if I needed to.
Now for the fun part. We need to attach the vhd, and resize the volume. I hope you like diskpart.
In the MMC I attach the disk image.. it’ll pop a few folders as it’s got a bunch of drive letters. I’ve never explored a phone, I don’t know if the ARM images are just as weird.
Even more strange, it’s MBR!
So if you were thinking, lots of partitions, and a clear win for GPT, sadly this isn’t it.
Sadly there is no free partitions (although one hiding could be deleted…?) And the UI doesn’t support expanding a logical drive (the green container). But diskpart does.
As indicated above the emulator’s vhd is disk3. You can see it’s the 64GB disk. Select it.
Next list the volumes. The Data disk (J:) is what we want so select Volume 10.
Literally just ‘select volume 10’ and ‘extend’. Don’t tell me this is difficult.
Listing the volumes again will show a 59GB Data partition. Congratulations we did it!
Back in the MMC, you’ll see it as well how the Data partition, along with the green extended partition is now taking up the entire disk. So we can now Detach the VHD, and run the emulator again!
And just like that we now have plenty of free space on the emulator.
I downloaded some games, and some music. It’s nice to be back home.
It’s not an extensive list as I didn’t game much on my phone but here is what I know works:
Final Fantasy 1
Heroes of Larkwood
Skulls of the Shogun
Candy Crush Saga
Pixel Dungeon +
Halo Spartan Asslt just closes, and Asphalt 8: Airborne doesn’t get the screen size right so it’s impossible to click enough buttons.
It’s nice that sonic runs, (haha) although using a mouse makes it impossible to control.
Now one fun thing is that the emulator is x86, nor ARM based so I converted the VHD to a VMDK, ran it under VMware, and YES it RUNS… sort of.
Perhaps a format that never was to be, the Phone/Tablet but it boots quickly and is so responsive. Windows without most of the .. Windows bits. I guess the real experiment will have to be will it run on a Surface?
It’s all 32bit anyways, and such an evolutionary dead end. Pitty.
A long long time ago, in a distant continent I once interviewed at this small company called Citrix. It was some QA position, they didn’t need programmers. I’d passed the interviews easily as I’d been programming serial TSR’s so I was hip to the 8250/16450. Citrix was an interesting but troubled company. They had incredible contacts and more importantly a deal from Microsoft that gave them access to OS/2. Sadly OS/2 1.0 had been a dud, and by the time OS/2 2.00 saw even a limited release, Microsoft had pulled out of OS/2. Citrix was a company that had lost twice in what should be a big market. -Multi user commodity systems.
Citrix Multiuser 1.0 was based on OS/2 1.21, and was limited to 16bit protected mode apps. Citrix Multiuser 2.0 was based on the Limited Availability version which means that it cannot run “GA” or General Availability programs. So no 32bit programs here. Instead it can run the same 16bit protected mode applications, however it can also run MS-DOS based programs. DOS4/GW programs run so oddly enough the only real commercial stuff that can be run is MS-DOS.
So here we were 1994. Citrix had struck out twice, but this time it was going to be different, but the deal had to be re-struck again. I have no idea how they managed to secure this lucrative deal again, but Citrix was able to get access to the source access Windows NT, after the 3.1 release to 3rd parties (when they got DEC involved). By now the world had gone Windows, Office 4.2 was a thing, and on the high end side, NT had SQL & SNA, and there was most defiantly a market for multiuser systems as there had been from the old days of Unix, with the old mix of ASCII and network graphical terminals.
The CD looks like a normal-ish NT 3.5 Server CD although there is no MIPS or Alpha builds, as expected everyone at Citrix would be working and targeting the larger established i386 market.
As you can see this is Beta build 101.
In the text mode setup it looks like a normal setup program. No doubt they had better things to do than skins, wallpapers and themes. HOWEVER there is a silent IDE bug that many people will no doubt run into:
Although it works okay in short bursts, the IDE driver will send a command 28 zero byte and then shut down the controller. From this point it hangs. So that means we either need to generate all the floppy disk images (not going to happen!) or do the MS-DOS cross install. Yeah I’m doing that instead.
When setting up under Qemu, use the AMD PCNET card. It’s much easier. I set it to Twisted Pair, and PCI bus. I’m not sure if those matter all that much, but it works for me!
If you are going to use Hyper-V, you’ll need the GF100 NIC driver, but use the Windows NT 3.1 driver, as this is technically a beta of NT 3.5 and the production 3.5 driver will blue screen.
I set the driver to autosense.
I also had both Qemu and Hyper-V bluescreen when doing DHCP. I don’t know what the issue is, and I’m too old to care as I don’t have source code to South Beach, and even if I did I’d probably regret posting fixes. So static IP address it is!
Honestly again the air in the office when I was there is that everyone was running around like crazy to QA the product, and get ready to expand client support. While I was too much of an OS/2 fan boy, they certainly knew that from now on everything was going to be about Windows NT.
Logging into the Citrix the first fun thing to do is to define some remote terminals, using the WinStation app.
The first interesting thing is that async terminals are supported. Along with using either NetBIOS or Winsock protocols for connecting clients. Isn’t that great! TCP/IP built in!
Now for the crazy part. The only client that works is MS-DOS based. Yes there is no Win16, no Win32, no Java, no protected mode DOS, no Linux, SunOS, Solaris, DG/UX, AIX, HPUX, Xenix, UnixWare or SYSV i386ABI. ONLY Real Mode MS-DOS. Despite the connections being able to be ICA version 2 or 3, they are incompatible with newer Windows based clients from Win Frame.
This it the following list of supported protocols. Although I had Novell Lan WorkPlace and used it before for Desqview X, I can’t find it at the moment. good luck finding FTP TCP/IP, in retrospect it’s a terrible name, and for all intents and purposes it’s disappeared from the earth. So that leaves Microsoft TCP/IP. Now all the LANMAN clients have it, although this isn’t what it wants. It wants the MSCLIENT found in the “\CLIENTS\MSCLIENT\NETSETUP” path from a retail version of NT Server 3.5
The DOS client is.. very touchy. Deleting profiles can lead to a corrupted profile. Altering existing profiles well yeah can lead to a corrupted profile. I thought it was EMM386 causing issues but it locks up on it’s own.
Revenge of text mode UI
One interesting thing I found is that the text mode UI didn’t die. It’s still very much alive. As mentioned above you can connect async terminals, or even connect over the network!
Text mode does bring up a Program Manage analogue, but all my programs are graphical so it’s kind of moot. But rest assured text mode stuff works great.
So 32bit Fortran stuff works great, what about MS-DOS?
Here is MS-DOS / Qbasic editor. Running on Citrix South Beach! Great, what about OS/2?
And here we go running the f2c translator through Dungeon to get an OS/2 text mode app. As you can see forcedos reveals that this isn’t a bound executable, instead it only runs on the OS/2 subsystem.
And of course it looks better on the graphical client to mix and match them all.
Obviously somewhere post South Beach the text mode stuff dropped off. I’ll have have to dig for more, but it’s kind of neat the idea of a real text mode NT. Sadly South Beach doesn’t seem to like VMware. I haven’t dug too far, as I like WSLv2 so I’m stuck with Hyper-V. It may work fine on ESX I haven’t tested. Obviously you need the appropriate drivers, ill try to update links later, if anyone cares.
No doubt that finally Citrix was no positioned to realize the dream of multiuser commodity based hardware along with commodity applications. Of course it wouldn’t be all sunshine and rainbows, and no doubt there was a toll needing to be paid between Windows NT 4.0 and on the way to Windows 2000. But back in 1994, things were looking good!
This is something that honestly deserves so much more. Back in the original scope of NT OS/2 it was going to be a C parallel of OS/2 2.00 Cruiser that had the promise of running on one of those new fangled microkernels, and those trendy RISC workstations. The 486 / Pentium were considered like the 68040/68060 to be the peak of CISC processors and from there on it was going to be a RISC world, the only question was to be which one?
Many of the Motorola customers who couldn’t afford to make their own (SUN with the SPARC), or license a school project (SGi with MIPS) were expected to use the 88000 processors that were expected to eclipse the 68040. There was an Apple initiative, and even a NeXT RISC Workstation built among many others. Only with the launch of the 88010 it was discovered performance was nowhere near expected and it’d take significant work to fix.
Back on the i386 side, Microsoft had been working with Intel on their upcoming RISC, the NTen aka i860. And just like the 88000 it too had performance issues, which resulted in Microsoft retargeting the MIPS.
Things changed along the way, and not only was the primary CPU platform dumped, but Windows 3.0 became such an incredible seller that OS/2 Cruiser was dumped from NT OS/2, and it became Windows NT. NT had been promised with the ability to run OS/2, MS-DOS, and POSIX applications, with an emphasis on Win16 and the new extended Win32 applications. However MS-DOS was super limited, POSIX was just enough to run vi & tar, Win16 was incredibly slow as it ran through WOW (Windows on Windows), and OS/2 had been kneecapped to the 16bit 1.x support as it was primarily a vehicle for running Microsoft SQL Server 1.0/4.0 . Another consequence of this is that OS/2 was command line only. In the back of deployment guides, and resource kits there was always an inference to a Presentation Manager subsystem for NT, although I’d never seen one in the wild.
Until I got a hold of a bunch of Microsoft Select CD-ROM’s that mostly were multilingual service packs of Office and Windows 98 / NT 3.51 & NT 4.0 But burred in there was a copy of Presentation Manager for NT 3.51!
First off it’s a text based install. It feels like October 1991 all over again. It installs a parallel OS/2 directory with presentation manager support.
Once it is installed it’ll setup program icons from the Windows NT side. Presentation manager runs in a separate window from the GDI. This is akin to how OS/2 would run Windows in a ‘full screen’ session. So oddly enough both support each other’s 16bit applications full screen, while reserving the desktop for 32bit applications. IBM would later introduce dual mode video drivers capable of rending Windows and OS/2 applications at the same time. Clearly Microsoft would never do this.
Launching the control panel reveals that it’s OS/2 version 1.3. No big surprise there. You can return to the Windows NT desktop either via the Windows NT icon in the bottom right, or via a Control+Alt+Delete.
The DeScribe 3 beta installs pretty smoothly into the subsystem. However running Describe is a different story:
It hangs trying to open or do anything. Even the ‘help about’ is too much. Such a pitty.
The readme warns against trying to copy the file manager from OS/2 although it does tell you what files to copy in manually. Naturally there is no ‘console’ for Presentation Manager, rather that is handled on the Windows desktop.
No doubt there had to be some big customer that demanded a way out for their investment in Presentation Manager on Windows NT. Otherwise this would have been built in. And it’s only 5 diskettes so it’s not a space issue. I suspect since it was on a Select CD, it really was not meant for wide scale distribution.
Last time I tried, Excel 3, and Word 1 had issues running on Windows NT, as the loader tried to intercept them as Win16. Things didn’t go so well. Or maybe it’s my memory. I went ahead and installed Excel 2.2 for OS/2
Despite it being text mode, it has Presentation Manager hooks, and needs PM Shell to be running. It’s a simple setup program, but yes, it’s text mode.
One nice thing about Describe & Excel is that they can see the program groups on the NT side, and create icons over there. However NT has no ability to read OS/2 resources so the icons are all incorrect.
And yes, Excel for OS/2 runs on Windows NT! Back then Excel was super expensive, this is before the big Office OEM bundles that took over the industry. So I could totally see preserving this massive investment in Excel.
Despite having 80286 emulation in the earlier versions of NT, and 80486 emulation in Windows NT 4.0 (Yes DooM runs on the MIPS!) the OS/2 subsystem was never available on the RISC platforms. I suspect had Windows 3.0 not been a big seller it may have. Then again without the big ‘rabbit out of a hat’ like DOS Extenders, Windows would have died on the vine. Who knows, maybe NT OS/2 is a thing in a parallel universe.
32bit computing arrived to the masses. Although it’s incredibly frail by modern standards, Windows 95 did deliver on the promises of OS/2. Depending on your apps, and drivers of course. Although OS/2 did have int13.sys to pass disk calls to a special v86 machine which then used the disk BIOS to make disk access possible, Microsoft and IBM stopped short there, not going all the way letting OS/2 use MS-DOS device drivers. Windows 95, however could.
This was always the winning strategy of Windows, is that it relied on the incredible OEM driver support for MS-DOS. Of course this would also be a catastrophic weakness. From my personal experience being able to leverage ancient MS-DOS drivers also helped squeeze as much as possible out of existing hardware. Case in point, the NDIS2 drivers for the AT&T Starlan 1mbit cards worked fine under Windows 95, additionally you could lost just the lower level drivers, and 95 could then load it’s protocols on top of that stack allowing you to have a TCP/IP network over that 1mbit Starlan stack letting you telnet into your 3b2 (or setup SAMBA, and doing file/print sharing).
If anything the biggest flaw of Windows 95 was not installing TCP/IP by default. However unlike many OS’s of the time, Windows 95 did include LAN and dialup stacks. There was plenty great about OS/2, but it’s refusal to integrate networking into the operating system hamstrung things like named pipes, peer, and larger apps, as you would have to buy and license a stack of stuff to bring OS/2 up to where it should be, while NT and 95 were complete out of the box.
Windows 95 was an excellent bridge OS for the era, until OEMs finally got around to writing drivers for Windows NT. Once the mainstream could finally take that leap, and leave MS-DOS far behind. But that didn’t really happen until Windows XP.
That being said, the favorite thing is to run Windows 95 in a browser. I found https://copy.sh/v86/ the fastest and best, as it loads a short 6MB compressed core image, and you are instantly teleported to the 95 desktop.
I have this old toolchain that relies on MSYS 1.0 from 20+ years ago. It’s great. I know others always love the newer, but I’m happy with this one.
Well this morning I wanted to rebuild some Qemu 0.90 thing and I got this fun error trying to run configure:
0 [main] us 0 init_cheap: VirtualAlloc pointer is null, Win32 error 487
AllocationBase 0x0, BaseAddress 0x71110000, RegionSize 0x440000, State 0x10000
d:\mingw\msys\bin\bash.exe: *** Couldn't reserve space for cygwin's heap, Win32 error 0
What the heck?! MSYS uses cygwin? I guess I should have known. So the solution is to ‘rebase’ the DLL, as it tries to take a static ‘grab’ at some memory block, because…. I guess subsystems or loaded DLL’s suck?
I rebooted and got the same error.
So obviously it’s a lot more involved.
So looking the rebase I have is part of the Platform SDK. Maybe there are others.
D:\MinGW\msys\bin>"D:\MinGW\include\directx\Microsoft Visual Studio 8\VC\PlatformSDK\Bin\rebase" -b 0x50000000 msys-1.0.dll
REBASE: Total Size of mapping 0x0000000000110000
REBASE: Range 0x0000000050000000 -0x0000000050110000
And now I can run stuff again. YAY.
I’m sure this has been covered time and time again, but you know it’s mostly to remind me in another 20 years.
The following is a guest post by PA8600/PA-RISC! Thanks for doing another great writeup on that PowerPC that was going to transform the industry!.. but didn’t.
The history of the PReP platform from IBM is quite interesting, not only because of its place in the history of Windows NT but also the history of the PowerPC architecture in general. When the PowerPC platform was new, IBM (just like a few other vendors, notably DEC) had grand plans to replace the x86 PC clone market (they helped create) with PowerPC. Of course thanks to various factors such as Apple’s refusal to play along, the launch of the Pentium Pro CPU (and the later Itanium disaster), and high cost, this plan never ended up panning out. Later IBM PReP machines were designed for AIX and Linux use only, and they were sold as regular old RS/6000 computers.
Still, Microsoft being Microsoft and willing to port their OS to literally anything hedged their bets and made MIPS, PowerPC, and Alpha ports of Windows NT (along with a PC98 release for Japan only). In the guest post about Solaris for PowerPC I made, I talked about the history of IBM’s PReP platform some more so you should go read that post if you want an initial rundown on PReP’s flaws and history. But I have learned a bit about the Windows NT port for PowerPC, and I discovered a rare version of it as well. By now everyone with a PReP machine (or PPC Thinkpad) has run Windows NT 4.0 on it, and if PReP machines are emulated it’s guaranteed this will be the second most run OS on it aside from AIX of course.
IBM also made a half-baked OS/2 port for PowerPC as well, and then there’s the previously mentioned Solaris port. All of these are rarities and it’s worth documenting. With how rare PReP machines are and their high prices on eBay when they do turn up for sale (or their tendency to be snapped up fast), I think it’s fitting to write perhaps the most in depth look at PReP hardware that anyone has seen.
Windows NT 3.51: “The PowerPC Release”
It’s commonly accepted that Windows NT 3.51 was the first release for PowerPC hardware and it was even called this within Microsoft. Featuring HALs for most of the early PReP machines including the Moto Powerstack, the rare FirePower machines built for NT (which used Open Firmware), the Power Series 6050/70 (and maybe 7248), and the unobtanium IBM 6030, it’s pretty much what you’d expect for a first release for PPC. It’s a polished, solid OS that’s arguably faster than NT4 on the same machine. Aside from the red boot screen (on my Weitek GPU), it’s pretty much Windows NT 3.51 but on the PowerPC. It’s like running NT 3.51 on MIPS or Alpha, it’s interesting but more software will likely run on 4 anyhow (especially on Alpha).
One interesting quirk of Windows NT for PowerPC is it does not report the CPU type of your machine. It simply reports “PowerPC” and what machine you’re running it on. It does not tell you that you’re running it on a 601, it tells you that it’s running on an IBM-6015.
Unsurprisingly Visual C++ 4 works on PowerPC Windows NT 3.51 as well. This is no shock, Visual C++ 4 was designed to work on 3.51 as well as NT 4.0. The same goes with many of the pre compiled programs. One advantage Windows NT 3.51 offers over 4.0 is that it is simply faster than 4.0 on the PowerPC 601.
Here’s something I’ve found out from research however. There was actually a limited release of Windows NT 3.5, it’s been dumped, and it is a real operating system. It also requires a very specific model of RS/6000 to work, and one with a interesting history giving it a unique place among the PReP machines. While I was unable to make it work in the end, I did discover and document a lot of interesting features of PReP machines.
Enter Sandalfoot: The IBM 7020/6015 (and demystifying PReP machines)
To understand the HCL and weirdness of Windows NT for PowerPC (and why it won’t run on Macs), we need to take a look at one such machine it runs on. This is my RS/6000 40p, a machine that was given several brand names by IBM and used as a development platform for PReP software and operating system ports. This is also perhaps the most historically significant RS/6000 model from the era. While it wasn’t the first PowerPC RS/6000 (that honor goes to the 250), it was the first to use the PCI and ISA busses and it was a few months ahead of both the initial PCI PowerMacs and other PReP boxes. It’s also one of the few true bi-endian machines as just like other PReP machines, the MIPS Magnum, HP’s Integrity, and modern Power8+ machines it has OSes for both endians available.
In 1994 (presumably October 28, if the planned availability date is correct), IBM released the RS/6000 40p (announcement letter here, codenamed Sandalbow) and the Power Series 440 (codenamed Sandalfoot). Both are near-identical machines with different faceplates and boot screens. The RS/6000 ranged in price from around $4,000-6,000 and was designed to be an entry-level AIX workstation, bundling a copy of AIX with each machine. As an AIX machine it’s relatively slow and fits the entry-level badge quite well, but thanks to the 601’s POWER instructions it served as a transition machine over to the later 604 AIX machines. Unlike the later PowerPC 603 and 604 machines, it featured POWER instructions allowing it to run both legacy AIX POWER software and later PowerPC software. The Power Series was presumably sold to those wanting a PReP box for Windows instead.
Since IBM PReP hardware is so obscure and undocumented, I’m going to document this as best as I can being the owner of an IBM Model 6015/7020. The machine features a 66mhz PowerPC 601 (similar to that of the Power Mac 6100 and RS6K 250), PCI and ISA slots, and IBM’s “Dakota” PReP firmware (more on the boot process here). It uses an off the shelf NCR 53c810 SCSI controller, Crystal CS4321 sound chip, an Intel 82378 PCI bridge, and a NIC can be inserted into the ISA slots (mine has the famous 3com Etherlink III). The Super-IO chip is also off the shelf, and is a National PC87312VF. The clock IC is a Dallas DS1385S, a close relative of the Dallas DS1387 (with internal battery). At least some of the IBM custom ICs are the chipset ICs and those are also documented. A Linux 2.4 dmesg can be found here.
Mine is also maxed out at 192mb of RAM, however there are some solder pads for more and the chipset is limited at 256mb. This makes me wonder if the system was based on a reference design of some sort. There was an ultra-rare 604 upgrade as well, but considering how there are more 7248 and 7043 machines in the wild I can assume many customers just waited for that instead due to its superior AIX performance.
If the idea sounds familiar (off the shelf chips + RISC CPU) it’s because it was the very same idea used to create the two other non-x86 Windows NT platforms. The Microsoft Jazz MIPS platform most MIPS NT boxes were influenced by was infamously based on the same idea of a “PC with a MIPS CPU”. To a lesser extent, this was also seen on the DECpc AXP 150 and other EISA/ISA/PCI based Alpha machines designed to both run Windows NT and DEC’s own OSes. Crazy undocumented custom hardware and expansion busses were thrown out the window in favor of industry standards. In fact when I posted a photo of the motherboard to a chat full of PC nerds, they stated it looked remarkably like a normal PC motherboard. The whole industry would later adopt PCI and sometimes ISA on non-x86 machines to cut costs and reuse the same expansion cards.
The main difference between the RS/6000 40p and the Power Series variant is the boot ROM logo and chime. The RS/6000 and “OEM” systems used a boot ROM that featured the PowerPC logo and just a beep, while the Power Series machines featured a logo more closely resembling the PowerPC Thinkpads complete with the chime. One can boot firmware from a floppy as well by typing in the name of the ROM image in the prompt and pressing enter, and watching as it reboots once the firmware is loaded into RAM. Here’s a video I filmed demonstrating this, along with some other quirks including there being two SMS keys: F1 for a nice flashy GUI SMS and F4 for a text based SMS, along with F2 for netbooting (with the right NIC of course).
The Sandalfoot machines were LPX form factor machines, featuring a riser card and generic sheet-metal case popular with prebuilt machines from this era. The LPX form factor was wildly popular in the mid 90s due to its versatility, seeing use by both IBM and DEC for their RISC machines, various PC builders, and even Apple for the clone program and clone based Power Macintosh 4400. The Sandalfoot machines also drove home one of the core goals of the PReP project, which was to build a PowerPC platform using as many off the shelf and PC style components as possible instead of using lots of custom ICs like Apple did. I dug out one of my cameras to take a few high-res photos of the motherboard of this computer to illustrate this. Compare this to the motherboard of the Power Macintosh 6100 or even the 601 based 7200 and notice the bigger heatsink and use of fewer custom ICs (Apple loved those).
There were three main GPU options: the famous S3 Vision864, the Weitek Power 9100 (or P9100 for short) as a higher end option, and IBM’s own GXT150P. The S3 was the entry level GPU and the Weitek was a higher-end and faster GPU. The GXT150P is beyond the scope of this because it is unsupported on the other PReP OSes, only AIX. The other two video cards are essentially unmodified Diamond PC cards with the BIOS chips missing.
The Sandalfoot machines are perhaps the most important PReP machines due to their role in PReP OS development. Both OS/2 Beta 1 and Windows NT 3.5 were written for this machine in particular as it was one of the first PowerPC machines to support PReP and feature PCI/ISA slots, unlike the NuBus Macs released a few months earlier or the first PPC box: the MCA based RS/6000 Model 250. They also often shipped with the well documented and emulated S3 Vision 864 video card, a common GPU family in PCs of the time to the point where it was even included on some motherboards and emulated in too many PC emulators/virtualization programs to count (notably 86box/PCem). In fact it’s successor (the 7248) featured one soldered to the motherboard.
Windows NT 3.51 was dubbed the Power PC release, because it was designed around the Power PC version of NT, which was originally supposed to ship in version 3.5. But IBM constantly delayed the Power PC chips, necessitating a separate NT release. “NT 3.51 was a very unrewarding release,” Thompson said, contrasting it with Daytona. “After Daytona was completed, we basically sat around for 9 months fixing bugs while we waited for IBM to finish the Power PC hardware. But because of this, NT 3.51 was a solid release, and our customers loved it.” NT 3.51 eventually shipped in May 1995.
I think a more accurate thing to write is that there simply weren’t many PReP boxes out in late 1994. Windows NT 3.51 supported the Motorola PowerStack series, the IBM 6050/6070 (and maybe the 7248, which came out in July 1995), and rare FirePower machines. Windows NT only features HALs for the 6015 (Sandalfoot/Power 440/RS6K 40P), 6020 (Thinkpad 800), and the 6030 (a rare IBM machine that likely was only sent to a few developers). By 1995, there were more PReP machines on the market and this made the NT 3.51 release logical. NT4 even supported a few servers, mainly the RS6K E20, E30, and F30.
Windows NT 3.5 was most likely a limited release for testing purposes on the Sandalfoot machine as it’s HCL file declares it as “Build 807” with a date of October 18, 1994. The date seems to be around a week or two before the first 40p machines at least shipped. Some more files were modified later on and the folders were created on November 9th, 1994. Hardware support is very barren, and the readme file even has a section dedicated to quirks of the 40p along with a list of supported software for the x86 emulator. This might have been considered a beta as well, as an announcement letter for the Thinkpad 800 (6020) explicitly mentions Windows NT and that this version might be a beta for developers. It also talks about a Windows SDK for it and a Motorola compiler used to build 3.5 software.
However the real problem for me has to do with getting a video card. Windows NT 3.5 for PowerPC does not support the Weitek P9100 GPU that came with many RS/6000 branded machines, and neither does OS/2 for PowerPC. It only supports the S3 Vision 864 and 928 video cards. It’s listed in the setup options, but choosing it causes a txtsetup.sif error. I’m going to assume that the development units came with the S3 video card instead. My box contained a Weitek card which works for AIX, Solaris, and Windows NT 3.51/4. I bought a card from eBay to use with NT 3.5 and the OS/2 port.
The readme also features an ominous warning with the S3 video cards, that only revision B3 is supported and that 928 cards need 2MB of VRAM for anything above 256 colors. My revision of the card I ordered was B4, so I took the risk of seeing if it worked with my system. I also removed the ROM chip as the system initializes the video card itself and that having a ROM chip can cause the system to not complete the self-test or display video. As the IBM Weitek card lacks a BIOS, I did this.
Despite the scratches on the card from possibly coming out of an ewaste pile, the card worked fine in both a PC I inserted it in for testing purposes and the IBM system. I now had a 40p with a GPU much more well supported among non-AIX or Windows NT operating systems.
Anyhow, let’s talk about the install process in closer detail here. Windows NT for PowerPC installs in a similar manner to Solaris for PowerPC on the IBM PReP machines. First the floppy disk boots ARC, then when you choose to install it the machine copies the ARC bootloader/firmware to the hard disk so it can load it from there at each boot. The floppy disk can also be used to load ARC if the loader is damaged on the hard disk. Keep in mind, on IBM machines ARC is not stored in the ROM unlike on many other ARC capable machines so this has to be done. The Firepower machines do something very similar by using an Open Firmware shim, and unsuccessful attempts at emulating PPC NT have exploited VENEER.EXE to attempt booting instead of using the IBM firmware. It fails because they’re not emulating the hardware, just trying to find a quick way to just boot NT.
Once this is done, the installer loads up and installs just like every other NT install. It checks the HAL by reading the machine ID, what video hardware the machine has, and whatnot to prepare the installer. You need a IBM 6015, 6020, or 6030 according to the HALs it has and only the S3 video cards are on the HCL.
Or that’s what should happen. I first tried using ARC 1.51 as it worked for 3.51 and was greeted with a HAL error BSOD:
I first attempted to use older ARC boot floppies and I got somewhere, the BSOD changed to the classic 07b, and then I got nothing else. Using ARC 1.48 and 1.49 gave me this, I got some i/o error with ARC 1.46 (the first 3.51 ARC floppy), and any previous ARC floppy is most likely undumped. I’m assuming either the error is due to an ARC mismatch, a weird firmware mismatch/hardware revision mismatch, or some incorrect SCSI ID Solaris style. There might very well be some weird forgotten trick to making it work (maybe a Windows expert could dig through the files and find some weirdness), but I’m going to move onto another obscure PPC rarity:
OS/2 PowerPC Boot Attempts: Beta 1 and the Final
Recently the OS/2 Museum site dumped Beta 1 for PowerPC. It’s an earlier version of OS/2 for PowerPC that insists on a Sandalfoot machine with an S3 GPU. Unlike the other OS/2 PowerPC disc, it features a verbose boot featuring the kernel it uses. If you want to really see OS/2 for PPC working, try it on a 7248 or read this post about it.
This failed to boot, throwing up an error about mounting the disk or something. I did record it doing something at least however, an improvement over the Weitek which just does nothing at the PowerPC screen. I tried several things including removing the external SCSI CD drive and that didn’t fix much. It also declares 88c05333 an unknown PCI device.
So I decided to try the “final” build. The final build requires a 6050/70, and some people did get it working on the PPC Thinkpads. I decided to see what it’d do on my machine. Unsurprisingly it did absolutely nothing but give me a blank white screen and sometimes a 00016000 error (for a trashed CMOS). If anything the 6015 loves to trash it’s CMOS contents for absolutely no reason, especially when OS/2 is involved.
Anyhow this was very anti-climatic, as the OSes I threw at it found reasons to not work on it whatsoever. I weeded out the GPU being at fault by testing Windows NT 4.0 and finding out that it works just fine with the GPU, however I seem to have fewer resolutions available than what the Weitek card allows. It did change the boot screen font, making me wonder if the red boot screen is a GPU driver quirk.
However changing the device IDs with OS/2 PowerPC Beta 1 got me somewhere, as I now got a screen about the HDD failing to write. I formatted the HDD to FAT using the ARC diskette, then I nuked all the partitions, but not much else changed. I’m not sure what the error means, but it was a letdown.
Unless these OSes require some long lost firmware, I’m wondering if there’s else that’s causing issues with installation. Either way, it was a letdown. Nothing I tried worked and I spent hours messing with everything from SCSI IDs to using different drives.
I’ve been using Sandboxie for a long while to run all those questionable downloads on Windows. It’s a great light weight sandbox (as the name implies) for running random downloads, or even going to questionable websites as Sandboxie does a great job of isolating processes, and their filesystem access.
It’s not been all that cheap, but I felt it was worth it. I went to check to see how much it is as the conversation had come up on discord, and it turns out that Sophos had bought Sandboxie, and opened up the source code!
The downside is that there will be no further official development of the product. So I guess at some point I’ll have to break down and get a signing cert and re-build it if I want to keep using it.
Last version is locally mirrored here, as I understand it’ll be deleted soon enough.
On one of my later trips I picked up this fun title, Lemmings!
And looking at the back of the box, what fun it contains!
One interesting thing about 1995, is that with the rise of Windows 95, this marked the end of the specialized PC market in Japan. Just as WING/Direct X basically killed off the DIY driver/extender environment on MS-DOS, by being able to abstract the hardware it removed any meaningful difference between an EPSON PC vs a PC-98, FM Towns, or even the lowly IBM AT/386.
This being a Win32 includes both WING & Win32s. A perfect snapshot of an early Win32 commercial game circa 1995, as you needed to cater to that massive Windows 3.1 install base, although so many were rushing to Windows 95. Naturally this also means that the setup program is a Win16 app, once more again to preserve that bridge of the Windows 3.1 & Windows 95 world.
Well the obvious thing to do is just install it on a legacy 32bit OS, and what better than Windows XP?
Now to run it on something like Windows 10, it’s just a matter of copying the WINLEMM.INI into %sysroot%, along with placing a copy of WING32.DLL into the %sysroot%\SysWOW64 directory and you are good to go!
Sadly the character encoding in Windows is still really lacking and doesn’t render all that great. However that had me thinking as almost a decade ago I did find a demo of Lemmings for Windows. Could it be possible to just overlay the executables & DLL’s to produce an English commercial version?
Surprisingly the answer is yes. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it’s as simple as that!
The game is mostly playable, some parts are just coded to run as fast as possible, as no doubt nobody was imagining 1+ Ghz machines. So the intro, warp & suicide are almost instant.
It’s something to keep the kids entertained for a day in recent events. It’s been a LONG CNY.